Leo Harmonay – The Blink of an Eye
Leo Harmonay has earned a well-deserved reputation from his live performances in the New York and New York City area as being one of the most compelling folk/blues musicians on the scene today. His songwriting skills have set him further apart, as well, in a world where too many purveyors of the style believe hitting upon time-tested tropes without any transformative charisma is enough to please fans of otherwise moribund genres. Harmonay’s lyrics have moments of genuine poetic merit while never failing to serve the music they are designed to accompany. His influences in this area aren’t difficult to glean, but those influences aren’t as important as what Harmonay does with them. The ten songs on The Blink of an Eye sound nothing like anyone else because Leo Harmonay brings his own experiences to them with a direct conduit on how to embody them in traditional forms. These are songs born from a life well lived and a commitment to mastering a chosen art.
He has a great gift for invoking a mood. “Up to You”, based on title alone, might sound like a bright optimistic number. Instead, the opener is a muscular, brooding acoustic blues with deft touches from electric instruments to add a little more punch. The primal and stripped back percussion driving the song forward keeps things grounded and precise, but this isn’t a song about hitting musical marks and nothing more. None are on The Blink of an Eye. The atmospheric “Washing Myself Clean” has a dream-like feel that Harmonay underlines with emotive, yet opaque vocals that likewise sound like they are emerging from a haze. The songs on this album don’t always make use of harmony vocals but when they do, as they do in this song, the results strengthen the overall vocal presentation. Harmonay doesn’t lack for vocal talent, but his voice has some unusual accents and rough edges that the occasional use of backing vocals smooths out some. Harmonica returns in “Wounds of Love”, but it’s used in a folk music context here and acts almost as a second vocalist providing emotive counterpoint to Harmonay’s more laid back vocal.
The blues return with “Gone Are the Days” and the approach he takes to the genre will remind many of the album’s opener. There’s a notable dearth of electric guitar in the song, but the slide work snaking its way through the track and Harmonay’s own ragged guitar jangle gives the song all the musical grit and gravitas it requires. The Blink of an Eye takes a sharply darker turn on “In the Morning Light” and it’s, equally so, one of the album’s most theatrical points. The use of electric guitar is the main tool Harmonay uses to manipulate the song’s mood and it creates an eerie cloud that casts a shadow over the music and vocal. His singing never attempts to compete with the backing but, instead, tailors itself to the atmosphere and shows careful attention to the lyrical details. The concluding one-two punch of The Blink of an Eye, its title track and “The Joy in Our Sadness”, gives the album a considered and wide-ranging ending that is equal parts intelligent and highly musical. The title song features a number of inventive, understated musical turns while the latter song has a more ethereal lift. Leo Harmonay’s talents are considerable and The Blink of an Eye vividly displays them.
8 out of 10 stars.
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